Feet in 2 Worlds‘ reporter Aurora Almendral visited Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, where a large Muslim population lives and works, to gauge their reaction to the anti-Muslim video and the widespread anti-American protests that followed in the Arab World.
One of those interviewed was perfume shop owner Osman Adam, 49, from Sudan, who supports the right to protest peacefully but stands against the violence and attacks on the U.S. embassies and the resulting deaths of U.S. government officials, including Ambassador Chris Stevens. In describing the protests, he said, “It’s obnoxious. It’s insulting to a billion and a half Muslims.”
Adam says he can’t answer for the actions of people on the other side of the world, but thinks it’s a mixture of frustration and mob mentality, “a lot of times people don’t react rationally.”
What he does defend vigorously is his religion. “From an Islamic point of view, you don’t kill innocent people. There’s no justification for that whatsoever. I feel sorry for those who got killed,” emphasizing that in Islam, “violence is not accepted.”
Down the street from Adam was Egyptian-native Ali Mohammed, head of Al Pasha restaurant, who added his two cents to the controversy.
He says he understands the value of freedom of speech, but he’s frustrated by the irresponsibility of the video. He believes that “definitely, something has to be done internationally,” to stop anti-Muslim actions, like the video or burnings of the Quran, that set off a string of events. But of the attacks on U.S. embassies he says, “we are really against it.”
Sami Hakim, who was sitting down to lunch at Al Pasha, is also from Egypt. He said that he understands Mohammed’s frustration, but that “America is a big country, and free,” and that there’s no real way for America to stop what is going on, adding sardonically that the U.S. can’t go to war against individuals’ actions.
Many Muslims were reluctant to speak to Feet in 2 Worlds, a fear explained by Adam and Gadeir Abbas, a staff attorney at the Washington D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Adam at the perfume shop said many people are wary of the media “twisting the story.”
Abbas agrees that, “there’s sometimes a fear that attracting attention to oneself will cause the anti-Muslim ugliness to be directed to them,” and that, “anti-Muslim activists have created an environment where some are afraid to stand up.”
Abbas noted that this could change since Muslims are a relatively recent group in the United States and with each new mosque that is built, American Muslims “will be able to communicate more effectively, become more organized and able to project a voice to the larger community.”
It’s an idea Sami Hakim sees as the real solution: “The only way to stop anti-Muslim sentiment is if people have a better understanding of Islam.”